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The global food crisis of 2007-08 has focused attention on food prices, pushing the topic to the top of the agenda of international organizations. For policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa, however, food prices have been an issue of economic importance and political sensitivity for decades. Of particular importance are the prices of staple foods, defined as grains and starchy root crops that are inexpensive sources of calories. In eastern and southern Africa, maize is the most important staple food, followed by cassava, sorghum, teff, wheat, plantains, and sweet potatoes, with the importance of each varying by country. The importance of these staple foods cannot be underestimated, as they contribute 50-75% of the caloric intake of the population. Furthermore, staple foods represent a large share of food spending, which is itself 40-70% of the budgets of households in sub-Saharan Africa.


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